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Few buying Barra's attempt to reassure them on ignition failures

Even as General Motors CEO Mary Barra continued her testimony before a House transportation panel other issues swirled around the massive recall that has now reached 20 million cars and trucks due to a faulty ignition switch.

Committee hearing

Seated in front of a row of House lawmakers, some of whom seemed openly skeptical of Ms. Barra's explanation, tried to discuss GM's “culture of secrecy.” In this culture, lower-level staff tended to keep major issues – the ones that might cause recalls due to safety or emissions – from rising to the senior staff level, MSNBC, Reuters and the Associated Press reported.

Due to this disconnect, many senior managers could argue that they didn't know anything was wrong. Still, the members of the House Committee on Transportation, were also skeptical of Barra's explanation that an internal investigation, conducted for GM by former US Attorney Anton Valukas that absolved some senior executives from wrongdoing because the executives didn't know about it.

House committee members hammered Barra's explanation, saying that just because they weren't informed about it by their staff members doesn't absolve them (the executives) of responsibility.

New developments

Meantime, in other developments reported MSNBC, Reuters and Associated Press:

Barra outlined plans, establishing a special fund for victims of the ignition switch. It is a special non-capped compensation fund

Barra also acknowledged that GM owners would face losses in the value of their vehicles that would not be covered by the compensation fund

In Riverside, CA, a suit was filed seeking compensation for millions of GM car and truck owners who are facing a loss in the value of their vehicles. The suit claims the GM had hurt customers to the tune of $10 billion or more by concealing known defects and valuing cost-cutting over safety

To date there have been more than 40 recalls filed on the ignition issue, covering 20 million vehicles

Barra testimony

Barra told the House committee that the ignition issue “isn't just another business challenge. This is a tragic problem that never should have happened. And it must never happen again.” Barra's comments were made in a prepared statement for the House panel.

“I want this terrible experience permanently etched in our collective memories,” Barra said, so that it will not repeated.

Relatives discuss accidents

Yesterday, the bricks continued to be thrown at General Motors as the relatives of victims of the ignition switch failure held a news conference to discuss allowing victims who have been already settled to reopen their closed claims.

“My son is left paralyzed from his bellybutton down. He has a feeding tube. His vision has been impaired because of a broken eye socket,” Robbie Buzard told the victim news. Robbie is father of Trenton Buzard who was paralyzed in accident in 2009 when the Chevrolet Cobalt in which he was riding was involved in a head-on collision with a vehicle driven by a drunken driver. Trenton also lost his great-grandmother in the accident

Buzard noted that “GM needs to accept responsibility for what it's done and do what's right.

Barra describes process

In a defense of GM, Barra reiterated the steps the company has taken, based on a report by former US Attorney Anton Valukas. Valukas was hired by GM to look at the automaker's handling of the ignition-switch recall.

Barra called the Valukas report “brutally tough and deeply troubling.” As a result of his report 15 senior executives lost their positions with GM.

Also, Ken Feinberg, who administered the funding and distribution of funds from the 9-11 fund, as well as the funds accumulated by Boston in the wake of last year's Boston Marathon where three people were killed and many others mauled or injured by the pressure-cooker bombs left by the Tsarneyev brothers as the race ended.

Barra reassures panel

During her testimony, Barra went out of her way to assure the House panel that she “would not rest until these problems are resolved...As I told our employees, I am not afraid of the truth.”

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were less than thrilled or reassured by Barra's reassurances. For example, Rep. Tim Murray, a Republican, noted the internal GM investigation concluded there was no coverup or conspiracy....But that report should be subtitled 'Don't assume malfeasance when incompetence will do.” Murray's remarks were prepared and read at the start of the hearing. “We want to from Ms. Barra not just how it happened, but why,” he concluded.

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said it's “frankly alarming that the GM report found top executives were not made aware of the deadly flaw for years, even though there was widespread evidence among lower-level” executives that there was an issue that had to be addressed.